The “INSPIRING MINDS” podcast, hosted by Justin Starbird and presented by The Edison Awards delves in to experiences of innovators & pioneers that are changing the world around us.
Take notes as they share with Justin how they navigated through research, development, and in true Thomas Edison fashion, marketed and sold their new found innovations.
There are over 25 million asthma sufferers and over 80 million allergy sufferers in the United States alone. This creates a large group of people that are all hyper-aware of the air they breathe. Although they may not refer to the air they breath in the technical terms that the air purification industry speaks about, these people do talk about mold and bacteria. It is a very important topic. Today, air quality and airborne illness, Covid-19, are at the forefront of people’s mind.
Jaya Rao, CEO and Co-Founder of Molekule, joins host Justin Starbird for the latest episode of Inspiring Minds to talk about what led to the founding of such a game changing company.
Jaya’s brother is a life long allergy and asthma sufferer and “He lived it and so we knew he was feeling it (the poor air quality) and a whole bunch of other people were feeling the pain of breathing dirty air, and that we could meet them there and talk about how we’re different.” Jaya’s father had developed a technology that could purify the air right in your home instead of through an HVAC system in the ducts of your home.
The next challenge was, “Okay, you’ve had filtration for years. Here’s something new. Would you want to try it?”
“A lot of times aesthetically, people end up using it (the product) and then throwing it on the side of the road because they’re done with it and throwing it into the trash. We wanted this (the Molekule Air) to be an object that really felt compelling to you, that you felt like it belongs in your home, it belongs as a centerpiece in your home because it’s doing something important. It’s cleaning your air.”
I think the biggest step was trying to come up with something fundamentally different in the way it looked, and then getting that manufactured and finding partners. We took it one step at a time but now as I look back at it, I just think, “I don’t know how we did it with, at that time, a really small team.” I think it was just we were naive maybe to the challenges ahead and we just kept going. Ultimately got the product out, which at the time, a lot of Silicon Valley hardware companies were not able to do. That was really just a big moment to finally arrive at.
Today, Molekule is a multi-Edison Award Winning Company and forever part of the Edison Awards amazing community. Listen to the full interview with Justin and Jaya now!
On this episode of Inspiring Minds, host Justin Starbird welcomes good friend of the Edison Awards, serial entrepreneur, part owner, developer, and all-around awesome guy, Ryan Fogelman. Ryan, the CEO of Conversion Development is leading Gold Edison Award Winner Fire Rover, CO-hatch and former Edison Award Winner Re-Grip.
Listen to Ryan talk about how he has over come obstacle after obstacle to find success.
He says it best in this expert, “I’ve typically not had deep pockets in anything that I’ve worked on. I’ve never been one where a company like Accenture would say, “Okay, why don’t you become part of my research and development team and help us figure out what the next product market would be.” What I do is I’d like to work from the ground up. I’d like to work with inventors. I’d like to understand. I’m curious. I think that’s where the Re-Grip.
I fell in love with the innovation, in the simplicity of what the invention was. With Fire Rover, the same thing. It’s a very complex product and I work with the inventors and it was one of my really good friends who actually had the idea for the company and he did the first year of building prototypes and then I got involved.
Again, when I get involved, I think it’s the next level. You have the inventor who creates that product. Then I look for products. Number one that I think are going to make it because nobody wants to waste their time. I don’t want to say I refuse to fail. I’d like to think that I refuse to fail. Of course, I fail, but at the same time, it’s always going to be a calculated risk on the projects that I want to work on.
Then there are the surprises. You work on a passion project, like CO-hatch that actually now has a mind of its own and a life of itself. I think I’m always looking for innovation. I’m looking for things that excite me. Then, from my perspective, when I get involved, it’s, “Okay, what’s the best way and channels to start to drive awareness.” Then from that perspective, it’s, “Okay, now, we get awareness, let’s prove the product works, and then let’s try to go out and actually get real sales.”
You get real sales, it turns into a real business. There are some great ideas out there and there’s a lot of very naive inventors and I say that with the most respect. Inventors should be naive. They should stay naive. They should believe that the world is simple and that they can create a product because what’s made the US and what’s made the American way it’s our innovation.
It’s looking at a problem and trying to find something new, which is why I love the Edison Awards. Because when you go there, there are all of these different products of people who’ve created something or a different mousetrap or something. That’s huge. Now, bringing it to market is different.
Sometimes I feel like I crush the inventor’s dreams when I’m like, “Create your product. Get your patent, be done.” Then bring someone in like myself or a group that licensed it to a company that has the money and the deep pockets that can really bring it to market. Again, as we all know what the internal combustion engine, it’s not the most efficient product that’s out there.
My great grandfather used to say, “It was the biggest forest that was sold to all of us as Americans.” At the end of the day, that product made it because of the deep pocket. We would have had electric cars 50 years ago if it was for what the best and most innovative products are. There’s always the reality of business. I think that’s the hard part for people to understand.”
3D printing, or digital manufacturing as it is also known, is a very complicated subject. To get to an end product, it involves lots of different types of scientific backgrounds. Companies that are successful commercializing 3D printing have been able to build a team that is capable of speaking all kinds of different scientific languages that are pushing for the same goal. That end goal being to deliver great technology that people can use, can design with, can build and iterate with, and that helps create products or projects on time.
HP has been investing in 3D printing and because of their history, have the supply chain set-up for and can deliver game changing technology that is resetting the market. Lihua Zhao, the Global Head of 3D Printing Lab at HP Labs and an HP Distinguished Technologist, joined Justin Starbird for the latest episode of Inspiring Minds to talk about the future of 3D printing.
Lihua shared that, “We have been developing our technology for quite a few years. One of the big things you may know is HP has a strong position in delivering fluids. We have a lot of engineering know-hows to build a printing-like technology. (We have worked hard to) leverage a lot of the existing assets and to assess the world’s needs. This combination of developing and delivering our technology for plastic additive manufacturing, as well as for metal, has led to producing goods in a different fashion.”
HP created the technology, called Multi Jet Fusion, to meet the demands of printing for plastic. This type of powder-based system has been integral to being able run around the clock so that there are no time limits for manufacturing and new parts, materials and objects are delivered on time.
“We’re living in a 3D printing world. How do you start with zeros and ones and end up with a physical thing? At HP we fuse this physical with the digital together to bring that experience and that performance to create new technology.”
Of course, at the end of day, 3D Printing is a physical tool. Performance of the materials, performance engineering – at a pixel level, precision performance, the ability to preform multifunction, multi-properties, and multi-materials in print is what is driving innovation. HP is standing firmly at the head of the class.
Zsquare develops high performance, ultra-thin, single-use endoscopes for a broad range of indications. They have created a single-use endoscopic platform that completely eliminates the risk of cross-contamination which is caused by endoscopes that are reused. These endoscopes dramatically cut healthcare cost and improve diagnostics quality.
Asaf Shahmoon, Founder and CEO of Zsquare, patented miniature fibers that allow for unprecedented access for doctors, serving indications that never been available before. “I think that we have started out very ambitiously by reconsidering endoscopy in general. Once we researched the market, we knew that rather than tackle a single barrier or a single trend, we were going to disrupt the way people approach endoscopy. We mapped out basically three components in the clinical, in the healthcare, as well as the market. We set out to create a sustainable technology that would significantly shift all of these elements,” shared Asaf on the most recent episode of Inspiring Minds with Justin Starbird.
For example, meeting the demands of the global pandemic has been at the forefront of their scope of work. The Zsquare tiny endoscope, can access the Eustachian in ENT, the Fallopian tube in gynecology and go deeper down the lungs in bronchoscopy.
Asaf explained “I think that from the clinical aspect, we needed an endoscope that was from one side flexible enough but at the same time, very small in order to go inside areas that no other endoscope can go, but still provide high-resolution images. In terms of health care, we had to solve the cross-contamination problem that is actually affecting the entire environment of the multi-use. I think that specifically in these days when a pandemic is being spread around the globe, we’re witnessing the magnitude of cross-contamination. Therefore, single-use endoscope can play a vital role in avoiding this.”
Vocera has always worked under the philosophy of following the customer and developing solutions centered around human-centered design techniques. Meaning that in order to design your product to be effective and to support the workflow in the business, you need to be immersed in the business and understand what happens from a workflow perspective.
As Kathy English, the Chief Marketing Officer of Vocera told Justin on this episode of Inspiring Minds, “The thing about healthcare is it’s always changing. A nurse’s day never goes smoothly or as it was intended. As the day goes on, they may have patients crashing, you have doctors coming in and wanting to talk to the nurse at any given time. You have new orders, you have new patient arrivals. It’s this dynamic environment and the only way to design a product that’s going to solve for that is to be immersed in it.”
Kathy explained how the product managers actually go onsite, follow the clinicians, and understand what happens on any given day and the way that workflow might need to change. The team at Vocera is inspiring folks each day to solve communication problems in healthcare.
EVP of Healthcare Solutions at DJO Global, Steve Ingel, joins Justin Starbird to talk about working to continue to innovate and meet customer demands in an ever changing world.
DJO, the 7th Largest Orthopedic company in the world, is a leading global provider of medical technologies designed to get and keep people moving. The Company’s products and software solutions address patient care from injury prevention to rehabilitation after surgery, injury or from degenerative disease, enabling people to regain or maintain their natural motion.
The DJO software platform, MotionMD, recently won a Gold Edison Award for its web based, integrated solution, with Internal development teams. Steve shares how “we test new features and modules on our own business (insource/outsource), and then also pilot with direct Customers for Voice of Customer and work closely with industry leaders and Industry groups and associations. Recently we reached 3 Million Patient Agreements, have well over 2,500 locations across the US and now Canada using our software, 25k providers, and integrated with 47 EMR vendors. We did a very rapid pivot to tele-health to support Customers with unique software features, and we continue to add more features to our platform to meet evolving Customer and Industry needs.”
Listen as Steve explains how… “nobody else in the industry is as uniquely positioned as DJO to deliver on the continuum of care promise. Nevertheless, we continue to focus on the innovation gap, on solving real Customer and market needs, provide even greater value, while also leveraging our strengths. My goal is to constantly challenge my teams to widen our competitive advantage.”
Steve and DJO are a great example of how to lead and continue to innovate as the world changes all around us.
Dan Harden, CEO and Founder of Whipsaw joins Justin Starbird today to discuss leading a company through adversity. Dan and his team are a group of true pioneers and innovators in the product design space.
Dan shares that, “We bring that attitude to our clients, that optimistic like good old fashioned American, “let’s roll up our sleeves and solve this problem” attitude lives in those companies so strongly that it’s benefited us during this pandemic. Our clients feel that they’re really grateful to us for sticking with them and helping them through this difficult time.”
Listen as Dan talks about how his team works explaining that it’s really just about the celebration and the joy of creative problem solving.” Everything that we do stems from this belief and this purpose, that the world can be a better place. If you think openly and creatively, we live and breathe innovation. It is our way of expressing ourselves. It feels natural.
If you are not familiar with Whipsaw, they have had a lot of big hits ranging, from Google Chromecast, Nike FuelBand many products for Brita, Dell products. The list goes on and on. They’ve helped clients produce and ship well over a thousand products since Dan founded the company back in 1999.
Industrial Technology Research Institute is located in the northern part of Taiwan, Hsinchu, won two Edison Awards for 2020 for their contributions to innovation.
In the first of their two wins, ITRI took the Edison Award Gold in the Adhesives category for their product Celluad, a product developed in part by Dr. Lin, Research Director of Materials Research and Development at the company. Dr. Lin joined Justin Starbird and explained how Celluad was created using cellulose, an organic material found in plant cell walls, this adhesive is low-cost, strong, water-resistant, and environmentally friendly.
Compatible with existing manufacturing processes, Celluad provides excellent adhesion when applied to plywood, flooring, and lumber core board. Most importantly, ITRI’s adhesive is completely free of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical found in the resin used to construct most artificial wooden boards. In this way, ITRI offers an adhesive solution that is effective and affordable as well as healthier for manufacturers, consumers, and the environment.
The second award ITRI received this year was bronze in Cellular Research for iKNOBEADS, the world’s first and only biomimetic magnetic beads capable of fighting cancer by stimulating, expanding, and strengthening T cells through imitation of the immune system. Dr. Chen also joined Justin and worked directly on their development, explains that the knobby shape which gives iKNOBEADS their name and makes them so effective was the result of a happy accident that occurred while experimenting with different bead sizes when it was found that the addition of texture to the beads increased expansion rate. Because of this, iKNOBEADS not only fight cancer but do so with an incubation period reduced by three to four days, reducing opportunities for contamination and saving money.
Listen as Dr. Lin and Dr. Chen talk through innovation, commercialization and what winning an Edison Award has meant for ITRI.
Jenny Yiu, Director of Operations at Nano and Advanced Materials Institute (www.nami.org.hk/en) in Hong Kong, joins Justin Starbird to talk about how NAMI achieves technological advancements and commercialization of technologies that are developed within their organization. NAMI focuses their research and development on five market sectors which have the highest potential; construction, electronics, energy, environmental, and healthcare. As of this posting, NAMI has already commercialized over 20 products that have launched to the market in 2020.
Jenny shares that “… We (at NAMI) believe in this miniature (nano) world of materials because our focus is on the materials. Materials can take on distinctive chemical, electrical, magnetic, mechanical, optical, and other properties. When working at the nano-size, our researchers are able to exploit these properties and we leverage our cutting-edge equipment, laboratory and infrastructure to create solutions that will have commercial success.”
Listen as Jenny and Justin discuss the business model, the types or relationships that are successful, and insights on what can work to help you commercialize your next project.
Wayne Liu, SVP of Perfect Corp, joins Justin Starbird to discuss how a hardcore technology company applies their innovation to the beauty industry.
Yes, to their roots, Perfect Corp incorporates R&D, engineering and innovation to all of their projects. According to Wayne, “…More than two-thirds of our employees are really technically driven. However, it’s not only technology. The spirit of the Edison Awards is really how to apply the technology into the real world and commercialize it, and then create benefit for the majority of the people. That’s really something we are looking at. We use our technology to create a product, and then we find a place where it can be useful and can benefit all the people. Then we commercialize, and get the business successes.”
That business model is confirmed by winning the Edison Award. Wayne adds that, “we recognize that we are having an impact on the market which we are choosing, which is the beauty industry. We are really mainstream now.”
Listen as Wayne shares how Perfect Corp is getting set to celebrate their first 5 years!